How Mundelein educator teaches 9/11 to students too young to remember it
Mundelein High School history teacher Nicole Malham was a sophomore at DePaul University on Sept. 11, 2001, when terrorists crashed hijacked passenger jets into the World Trade Center's two towers, the Pentagon and a Pennsylvania field.
She has vivid memories of that terrible day that took nearly 3,000 lives.
"I was sleeping in my dorm when one of my friends called me and told me to turn the TV on," Malham recalled. "I turned the news on minutes before the second plane hit the second twin tower."
Sixteen years later, Malham includes the Sept. 11 attacks in the curriculum for her U.S. History classes. She described the attacks as a historical event "that has defined our foreign policy for my students' entire lives."
Q: Why is it important to teach students about the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks?
A: This event launched the war on terror.
It would be very difficult to understand why our government makes the decisions it makes for our foreign policy without an understanding of 9/11. It is very important that our students learn the events of the past to understand the impact they are having in the present and in the future.
Q: How do you address the events of that day in your class?
A: I use a combination of readings and video clips to teach (about) 9/11. I use parts of the documentary "Inside 9/11" to show students the events of the day. I also use articles about al-Qaida's beliefs to help students understand the underlying issues that led to 9/11.
Q: Is it an emotionally difficult subject for you to teach, or for them to learn about?
A: The hardest part for me is hearing the people who lost loved ones talk about that day. I also never get used to seeing those towers fall. The students are noticeably impacted by these visuals and testimony while we watch the clips from "Inside 9/11."
Q: There were immediate comparisons to Pearl Harbor. Do you think that's a historically accurate or fair comparison?
A: We look at the fact that they were both direct attacks on U.S. soil, but (we) also discuss the important differences that exist in terms of the targets, attackers, and reasons for the attacks.
Q: Decades or centuries from now, will the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks continue to be important events discussed in history classes?
A: I think Sept. 11 will continue to be significant years from now and therefore important for us to discuss in history classes. Gone are the days of World War II-type conflicts. Our foreign policy will be dominated by the goal of stopping and defeating terrorists, and that began when the plane hit the first tower.